Q&A with Alison McKean on her role as AHP Project Lead in Post Diagnostic Support in Dementia [published first on https://letstalkaboutdementia.wordpress.com]
1. Who is Alison and what matters to you as an individual to keep you healthy, active and independent?
My name is Alison McKean and I’m currently on a p art-time secondment as the Alzheimer Scotland Allied Health Professional (AHP) Project Lead in Post Diagnostic Support in Dementia. I’m originally from the Orkney Islands and apparently still have my accent, I often get asked about this after presentations! I also work as an Occupational Therapist in Dumfries & Galloway, in addition to my secondment and have worked in the field of dementia care for 16 years.
Anyone who knows me will know that I’m slightly obsessed with running and that is what keeps me healthy, active and independent. I’m currently training for the West Highland Way race in June, which at 95 miles is by far the biggest running challenge I have undertaken so far. In the picture below are my two running companions and we spend many hours in the local forests, which we’re very lucky to have on our doorstep. This is where I spend a lot of time reflecting on the work I am carrying out.
Ruby and Scapa at Mabie Forest
2. How would you describe your work as an AHP National Lead and what is the aim of the role?
Firstly, I’ll go back in my career to several years ago when I was working as an Occupational Therapist with a lady who had been living with dementia for a number of years. I’ll always remember her family saying to me “we wish we had known about this Service years ago.” This got me thinking about how many other people living with dementia and their families are in the same boat, not just in relation to occupational therapy but also the other AHP Groups.
I knew how much the AHPs could also offer people in the early stages of their dementia journey but recognised that often people with dementia and their families were not getting access to us. My work as AHP National Lead is around developing new ways of working, in partnership, to enable people with dementia and their families to have access to the support of the AHPs at the right time, in order to build resilience and enable them to live well with dementia.
The work is exciting and is always evolving, it is amazing how much can be achieved by having the right conversations with the right people who all have a passion for improvements in dementia care. I am grateful to all the people who have supported this work and what inspires me is thinking back to that visit from several years ago.
3. With regard to the AHP profile in working with people living with dementia, who should AHP’s be engaging with and what should their key message be?
The key message is that the AHPs have the knowledge and skills to enable people to self manage and live well with dementia for as long as possible. Therefore the AHPs need to continue to engage with people with dementia and their families and carers, the Dementia Link Workers, the Primary Care Practice Teams and each other. If we can all work in partnership, this will achieve the best outcomes for people with dementia.
4. How do you think AHP’s should raise their profile in dementia care and how important is sharing and spreading good practice?
From carrying out a large piece of national scoping work with the Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Link Workers and the AHPs, it was evident that there was lots of good work already being carried out. However it was clear that the AHPs felt that they could be doing more when people are in the post diagnostic phase. The AHPs need to continue to identify their best interventions for people with dementia and build on our current evidence base.
AHPs are renowned for being modest and although I myself have never been keen on giving presentations, to put it mildly(!), an important part of this role is sharing the work I am doing. I had the opportunity to present my work at the Alzheimer Europe Conference in Slovenia last year. Whilst I was in my usual pre-presentation nervous state, Jim Pearson, Director of Policy, Alzheimer Scotland, said to me, “you’ve got a great story to tell, so just tell it”. The session went really well, resulting in new connections and ideas. I continue to remind myself of the story and the importance of sharing and spreading it. If I can do it, anyone can!
Just arrived in Slovenia with colleagues from Scotland
5. If you could give one piece of advice to a newly qualified AHP, what would it be?
If you have an idea or feel that something could be done better, no matter how small it might seem, do something about it, tell someone and use your determination to see it through. Get out there and work on your story as an allied health professional, you never know where it might lead.
Participating in the 42 mile ‘Devil O The Highlands’ Footrace 2015
To find out more about this work you can see all our work on this community of practice: http://www.knowledge.scot.nhs.uk/ahpcommunity/ndp-workstreams/dementia.aspx
It’s always inspiring to hear about how the AHPs have made a difference to people in the early stages of their dementia journey – have you got any stories you could share with me?